WASHINGTON, DC – The Washington Wizards have named Wes Unseld Jr. as the franchise’s new head coach. Unseld Jr. becomes the 25th head coach in the organization’s history.
“Wes is one of the most highly-regarded assistant coaches in the NBA and clearly separated himself from the large and diverse group of candidates we considered,” said Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard. “His strong record as an in-game tactician along with his attention to detail on both sides of the ball, combined with his reputation for player development and outstanding character during his 20+ years of coaching left no doubt that he was the best choice to guide our team to the next level.”
Unseld Jr. comes to Washington after spending the past six seasons in Denver, including this past season as the Nuggets’ associate head coach. Under his guidance, the Nuggets finished fifth in the West in opponents points per game during the 2020-21 season and 11th overall in defensive rating (while finishing sixth overall in offensive rating). During his six seasons in Denver, the Nuggets finished at least 10 games over .500 four times (including a 54-win season in 2018-19) and have made the playoffs each of the last three seasons.
“I want to thank Tommy and Mr. Leonsis for the opportunity to lead this talented team both on and off the court and to continue moving the franchise in a positive direction,” said Unseld Jr. “Becoming a head coach in the NBA is a goal that I have pursued my entire adult life and to have that dream realized by coming full circle back to Washington is truly special. I look forward to representing the DMV, connecting with our fans and establishing a new standard for Wizards basketball.”
Unseld Jr. was instrumental in both developing Nikola Jokic into the lowest-drafted MVP in NBA history and the year-to-year improvement of Jamal Murray as one of the top young guards in the NBA. He also helped develop several mid-first round and second round picks into important contributors during his time in Denver.
“Tommy was very thorough during our search and the intelligence, information and recommendations he had gathered on Wes were exceeded by how impressive his preparation and planning were during the interview process,” said Monumental Sports and Entertainment CEO and Washington Wizards Governor Ted Leonsis. “We are excited to bring him on board and see those attributes in action with our players and in the community with our fans.”
Prior to joining the Nuggets, he spent two seasons (2012-14) as an assistant coach with the Orlando Magic (where he worked with Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo during the early stages of their careers) and one season (2011-12) with the Golden State Warriors (where he worked with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson during the early stages of their careers).
Unseld Jr. returns to Washington after beginning his career with the Wizards as an advance/pro scout in 1997. He would continue in that role through 2005, while also serving as an advance scout for the Mystics for three seasons (which included a stint as an assistant coach in the 1998 season), before being promoted to assistant coach for the Wizards in 2005. During his six seasons on the Wizards bench, Unseld Jr. was instrumental in game planning and player development and was largely credited with the success of the Wizards’ offensive game plans, with the team posting four consecutive playoff appearances (2005-08) and three straight top 10 offensive finishes (2004-07).
Unseld Jr. played collegiately at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and played high school basketball at Loyola High School in Towson, MD. He is the son of franchise legend/Hall-of-Famer Wes Unseld Sr., the greatest player in franchise history and one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history.